April 2009

I kinda have an office allotment.
It started just over a year ago, when I got a midwinter gift of a chilli plant through the post. It wasn’t doing so well at home, as the house wasn’t heated in the daytime, so I brought it into the office. A little while later I added a coffee plant that had grown too big for the kitchen windowsill.
Even though I’m a keen gardener I’ve never been much of one for houseplants. However, these two plants had something in common – they produce edibles (although I don’t hold any expectation of grinding home grown coffee). With this “theme” in mind my indoor allotment has expanded to include a few more types of chilli, along with garlic, lemongrass, ginger, French tarragon and a dwarf banana plant.


After reading some of the comments on this blog post I realise how lucky I am.


butt2Thinking back, I was about eleven and sitting sipping coke from a glass bottle, through a straw, while my dad supped a pint of light and bitter as he chatted to the landlord of our local pub. There had been a shoot that day and he’d ended up with a huge pile of pheasants. They’d already been plucked and the pub owner was busy out the back gutting them. 

Behind the beer garden was a track down into the woods and the fields beyond, from which his two teenage sons appeared, they grabbed a spade from the veg bed and with just the words “Stuck again” disappeared back down the path.

My dad and the landlord Aubrey, which always seemed to me rather a camp name for such an earthy lion of a man, explained that the boys had been off rabbiting with their Jack Russell, and as they are wont to do, the dog had gone into a burrow after a rabbit, but then having tried to reverse out of the hole had jacked up on her haunches, got stuck fast and needed digging out. She apparently did it quite often.

This memory came to me today as I found myself stuck head first in a water-butt.

Last week I found that said butt was empty. At first I blamed Little Boots. There is a case history for this – a popular game is to attach a hose and fire water all over the garden, but no, I realised that the tap was leaking and it had all dripped away. The munchkin may actually have been responsible for this as fettling with the water-butt is a favoured occupation. So I emptied the last of the water out of the thing and inverted it so that all the black muck and guck at the bottom would dry out.

Today I set out to sort the tap on the thing, squeezing myself inside and easily tightening up the nut behind the tap. Job done.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

I couldn’t get out.

It brought on visions of being found hours later either dead, or suffering from heatstroke and exhaustion.

Eventually, by reaching forward, with both arms, dropping one shoulder, and wiggling a lot I managed to get out.

David Blane eat your bloody heart out.

A glorious day of sunshine, so once again the munchkin and I packed provisions and went exploring.

We tramped for hours through green fields, woods and canalsides.

Along the way I tried to inoculate the youngster with the rich litany of some of the plants we saw – butterburr, lords and ladies, bread and cheese, charlock, goosegrass, dummy nettles, real nettles, dock, and jack by the hedge – the latter rejected in favour of garlic custard – Harry Hill’s Shark Infested Custard is doubtless to answer for that.

Amongst all the plants, dandelions were the clear favourite, until Little Boots experienced something we’ve all done in our time. Faced with a dandelion clock that isn’t quite ripe enough to release its seeds at the first  few puffs, the youngster takes a deeper breath and takes a harder puff. This does not work either and so junior takes an enormous and theatrical intake of breath in order to blow the thing to the four corners of the earth. Unfortunately such is the force of the intake of breath that all of the seeds, loosened by the preceeding puffs, are sucked into the little beggar’s mouth.

I tried not to laugh.

Later we we’re looking at some muntjac deer tracks by a stream.

“What do you think made these?” I asked.

“A chinchilla.”  replied Litte Boots authoratively.

brolleyTypical. Bloody typical.

Gorgeous sunny weather all week and then when I have a day all to myself, with plans to do all sorts of good things in the garden it’s grey and wet.

Of course we need some rain as it’s been very dry for the last few weeks, but that doesn’t really make me feel any happier.

Even the arrival of my Chelsea tickets didn’t lift my spirits much. chelsea

forks1On Sunday I was down on the allotment at 6.45 a.m.

It wasn’t because I’m hardcore allotmenteer, but rather that I had taken the family to the airport for an early morning flight at silly o’clock.

I fully intended to go back home and go straight back to bed, but after haring down the motorway I was too awake.

It was a fine morning and I spent a wonderful couple of hours working and noodling about.

Then an odd thing happened. Not wanting to overdo it, I thought to myself “Time to go home”, at which very point a tine snapped off the fork I was digging with. It was a stainless steel one so I was a bit surprised and also a bit saddened as it was an old favourite.

Mind you, I have bought an even better one now.

wood-sorrelLittle Boots and I went exploring today.We walked through lush green fields, crossed styles into woods generously scattered with celandines, anemones and beautiful little wood sorrel flowers. There were quite a few plants I didn’t recognise, and I do need to brush up on my British natives. But of course you don’t need to know the names of plants and flowers to enjoy them

We followed the track of a big dog on a path, got stuck in mud, saw and heard deer and pheasants. We peered into holes at the bases of trees and discussed the paths through hedges and fences left by animals. “Rabbit,” said I. “Wild cat,” corrected Little Boots authoritatively.

We would have had a picnic, but as explorers we took provisions, not picnic food, so we had an explorer’s feast instead.

Hours later we arrived home, tired, footsore, a bit muddy, a bit tanned by the glorious sunshine and laden down with feathers, pine cones, stones and similar treasure.

As we pulled our boots off and relaxed I inquired what had been the best bit?

“The Cheese and Onion crisps,” came the reply.